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The Sound of Love
By Jennifer Oliver
"I need to go potty," said Cody, our Kindergartener.
"Go then," I replied.
Two-year-old, Matthew, followed Cody out of their bedroom and announced, "I want water."
Tiredly, I replied, "You know where it is."
Ethan, our five-year-old, poked his head out the door and asked, "Do we eat rocks?"
"Go to bed, Ethan!" I responded, stifling my laughter.
"Mom," Cody said, patting my arm. "The baby is crying."
"Thanks, Cody," I sighed, grateful for those extra ears to make up for my hearing loss. "Go to bed, sweet boy."
"Good night, Mom," he said. And just before he disappeared into their bedroom one last time, he said, "I love you."
I smiled and said, "I love you, too, big boy."
Wearily, I fixed Madison's bottle. I was bone-tired after working ten hours, and Stephen was at the store for some late-night shopping because the holiday crowds were thin during that time. Putting the boys to bed every night after their baths, prayers, and songs was a challenge that constantly tested our limits. Tonight was no exception. I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for a year.
But duty called. Or cried, rather. Madison was at the sweet age of three months, where she spoiled us with huge smiles and gurgles. When she saw me, her eyes sparkled. As I held her up, she greeted me with her biggest grin ever. Then she shoved her fingers into her mouth, sucking furiously.
On my way out of the bedroom with the baby, I eyed the book from Roger Dean Kiser. I had ordered two copies of "Orphan" as Christmas presents, and they were sitting on our dresser, waiting to be wrapped.
Reading lately had become like chocolate. As much as I craved it, I could only treat myself to it every once in a great while. With two demanding full-time jobs, one with the Government and one at home raising four kids, reading was a luxury I indulged in during my half-hour lunch break. Every now and then, my husband swept the kids out of my hair for an afternoon so I could slip into another world through a book.
There it was again. Mr. Kiser's book calling to me. I didn't need Cody to tell me that.
After feeding and changing Madison, I retrieved the book from my dresser and sat down in the recliner with Madison propped up next to me. She appeared content to watch a muted Al Gore, conceding to the election, with closed captioning streaming across the bottom of the screen.
And off I went into another world.
A world that from beginning to end held me in its grip. A gut-wrenching journey through the eyes of a tender little soul. At several points, I closed my eyes as if deflecting the scene of a horrible accident. I was heartened by his strength to rise up from the scraps of his childhood.
Closing the book, I was shell-shocked. I glanced up and noted the time was after one in the morning. Stephen hadn't come home yet from his midnight shopping spree. I stared at the television set, my vision blurring from tears.
I looked down at Madison, who had fallen asleep, her cheeks flushed and heart beating warmly in her pink fleece-lined sleeper. She didn't blink an eye as I gently laid her down in the crib. Then I tiptoed into the boys' room and scanned the outlines of their bodies making small mountains out of blankets. I kissed them all and said a silent prayer to their guardian angels.
I envisioned my husband as a boy, a skinny boy with big ears like Mr. Kiser, scarred from parents who didn't know how to parent. The whippings, emergency room visits, his mother's atomic behavior, his father engulfed by a demanding job. Stephen ran away many times to the desert to hide, fervently wishing someone would drop out of the sky and adopt him.
And as if his home life wasn't enough, he felt it from his peers, their cruel, relentless pursuit to make sure he knew his place in this world as an undesirable human being. Like the one year when he painstakingly made valentines from scratch for each student in his class. How crushed he had been when his heart-decorated box was returned to him empty.
Granted it's not an upbringing of the magnitude penned by Mr. Kiser, but a degree of innocence was left in tatters nonetheless. And because of this, Stephen made a solemn vow to give our kids the childhood of his dreams. A simple, ordinary childhood, complete with hugs, kisses, and I-love-yous.
An all-you-can-love buffet, if you will.
Mentioned in the book was that the average reader may be temporarily affected by Mr. Kiser's experiences before the reader returned to his or her daily routine. Mr. Kiser, on the other hand, battles the demons of his past every single day.
Stephen, haunted by similar shadows, remembers what hurts and has chosen not to repeat history. As the househubby, he makes choices everyday to keep those shadows at bay. My heart swells whenever he bursts out into song at the top of his lungs, "I LOVE MY BOYS! I LOVE MY BABY GIRL! I LOVE MY WIFE!"
And we answer him all in unison, "WE LOVE YOU, DADDY!"
Love is loud.
I sat there in the recliner, crying for Mr. Kiser. I cried for my husband's scars and for all those little lost souls, past, present, and inevitably, the future.
I don't know how long Stephen was standing there, watching me, his arms sagging with the full weight of merchandise.
Startled, he asked, "What is this all about?"
I hiccuped through my tears, "I was just thanking God for you and the kids and our life together."
He grinned, shaking his head, and said, "Oh, you sweetie! Come here. Gimme a hug."
Boy, did that hug ever feel good.
E-mail Jennifer and let her know what you thought of her story!
Copyright © 2001 by Jennifer Oliver, All rights reserved.
Other real-life vignettes by Heartwarmers Gem Jennifer Oliver, 38, are
If you want to read more stories by both Jennifer and Roger,
Thought For The Day:
"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
"She opens her mouth in skillful and Godly wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness."
"Don't wet your pants in school more than once."
"If you want a baby, have a new one. Don't baby the old one."
"There are three types of players. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened." (Tommy Lasorda)
"Santanism: The belief that when you die your soul gets stuck
I would really appreciate it if you could put our family on you
Thank You very much.
I was wondering if you would put a friend of mine on your prayer line.
Please say a payer for her, her name is Mary.
Dear Friend and Family.
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